Client Login

Employment Law Services Ltd

Changes to Statutory Sick Pay for small and medium employers

31st March 2020
As part of the response of the UK Government to the medical crisis relating to the coronavirus, changes to the statutory sick pay scheme (SSP) have been introduced.

Under new legislation, SSP will be payable from the first day of absence, rather than having to wait to the fourth day of absence to be entitled to receive the payment.

The regulations enable small and medium sized business (those with up to 250 employees as at the 28th February 2020) to recover the SSP for the first 14 days of such sickness absence. In addition, to qualify, the business must be UK based. The changes will cover a period of absence of up to 14 days per eligible employee.

Under the standard regulations an employer can require an employee to provide evidence of their sickness absence. This usually takes the form of a "Fit note" (ie the slip signed by the employee's GP that was previously known as a "sick note").

Employees will not be required to provide the Fit note (sick note) on the eighth day of absence. Instead, the employee will need to submit an "Isolation note" to their employer. Where the absence is related to the individual having symptoms of coronavirus, or is living with someone else that has the symptoms of coronavirus, the Isolation note can be used to provide the required evidence of the advice to self-isolate. The Isolation note can be obtained through the NHS website and NHS 111 online. The changes enable an employee that is not actually sick themselves to claim SSP, as the employee will qualify if they are simply living in the same household as someone else that has or shows signs of coronavirus. The Health Secretary has indicated that if the employee does not have their own e-mail address to use for obtaining the Isolation note, they can have the note sent directly to their employer, or to a trusted family member or friend.

Employers will need to keep records of staff absences and payments of SSP. The Government has announced that it will work with employers over the coming months to set up the repayment mechanism for employers to recover the SSP payments as soon as possible.

The object of these changes is to support the Government advice on self-isolation for those showing signs or symptoms of coronavirus. The regulations came into force on the 13th March 2020 and are expected to remain in force for eight months.

Employers can still offer additional, top-up, sick pay if they want.

There are a number of issues that employers that provide top-up sick pay should give thought to.

Discretionary top-up schemes must be operated fairly and consistently. This is the best course of action in order to avoid allegations of unlawful discrimination, to maintain trust and confidence with staff, and to avoid general unhappiness and resentment amongst the staff.

It is also important for employers to note that a failure to make a payment of top-up sick pay in accordance with the employer's established rules could amount to a breach of contract. In addition, any changes to top-up sick pay would have to be agreed with effected employees before being implemented.

Obviously, these regulations apply to those staff that are off work due to sickness or self-isolating. The Government has announced a further scheme to support employers that need to temporarily lay-off staff due to the current crisis.

It is clear that the measures in regard to SSP are part of a broader set of changes being introduced by the Government to support businesses and maintain employment levels through a period of uncertainty.

If you need any further advice on any matter raised in this article do not hesitate to contact us at Hallett Employment Law Services Ltd.
Advanced Site Search